Oak Grove's Johnson, Magee experience unusual routes to college football

By CAMAL PETRO,

The Oak Grove Warriors had 12 players sign National Letters of Intent this year, but Johnny Magee and Ben Johnson’s road to National Signing Day was far from ordinary.

Along with Magee and Johnson, John Rhys Plumlee (Ole Miss), Kevin Barnett (Northwest CC), Rasaiah Ruffin (Jones College), Jeric Franklin (Jones), Austin Todd (East Mississippi CC), Tyson Keys (Northwest), Kaleb Carter (East Mississippi) and Thomas Holford (Mississippi Gulf Coast CC) joined Jarius Reimonenq (Arkansas State) and Jack Harris (Mississippi State) as next-level football players from Oak Grove.

Magee signed with Jones College Wednesday, while Johnson put pen to paper with Northwest, but neither player thought this day would come.

“I never would have imagined this,” Magee said.

While the Oak Grove football team went through summer drills, Magee ran stadiums at Warrior Field. Oak Grove coach Drew Causey noticed Magee, but he didn’t know who he was at first. After asking a few of his players, he waited after practice one day to meet Magee.

He asked the 6-foot-5, 215-pounder if he wanted to come out and play football, but Magee was too focused on basketball, so he declined. Causey asked again a few days later, and Magee finally came around.

“My uncle, he’s been pushing, and one of my coaches has been pushing me to play football my whole life,” Magee said. “Coach Causey asked me to go out there and I just wanted to give it a try, and it turns out I’m going to Jones now.

“At first, I didn’t want to play because I was just going to focus on basketball, but all my friends were saying, with my size and build, this was pretty much the best thing for me to do.”

In his one season on the Oak Grove football team, he recorded 32 tackles – four for a loss – with three sacks. His best game came against Terry when he totaled 11 tackles and two tackles for a loss with a sack.

While he was focused on basketball, he didn’t have any offers to play at the next level. Things changed when he got on the football field, though.

“That’s why I thank God that He actually gave me this experience, because, at the time, I didn’t have any basketball offers,” Magee said. “I just came out for one football season and I picked up offers like it was nothing, so I have to thank the Man above.”

Johnson’s recruitment was almost non-existent a few days before National Signing Day. He didn’t have any plans to join his teammates Wednesday until Causey got a phone call from the Northwest Community College coaches Tuesday night. 

“By Monday, I didn’t think I was going to be signing with my brothers, but God had a plan and I’m so happy it worked out,” Johnson said. “I was trying to hold back the tears when I was talking, so I’m really glad I didn’t start crying.”

When Johnson went to bed Monday night, he was stressed out about the situation. He prayed as much as he could, but he still didn’t get much sleep. It’s safe to say Johnson will be sleeping well now.

“It was a feeling of relief,” Johnson said. “Ever since my senior year started, my parents were talking about scholarships, and it was just very overwhelming. When the season ended, I didn’t have any offers until the 11th hour, so getting this done meant a lot.”

The 5-foot-10 defensive back had 57 tackles last season with two interceptions and three pass breakups. He led all defensive backs on the team in tackles, too, and was second on the team in interceptions.

His recruitment didn’t match his impressive numbers, but things worked out in the end. He had a message for players who might find themselves in similar situations.

“If you feel like football is the thing for you, don’t stop working, don’t stop grinding and don’t stop praying, because something will eventually come through if it’s in God’s plan,” he said.

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